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The Reasonableness of Faith in God

Catechesis by Papa Benedict XVI    
in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear brothers and sisters,
We are advancing in this Year of Faith, carrying/bearing in our hearts the hope of rediscovering how much joy there is in believing and of recovering/finding (again) the enthusiasm to communicate to everyone the truths of faith. These truths are not a simple message about God, particular information about Him. They express instead the event of the encounter of God with men, the salvific and liberating encounter, which realizes the deepest/most profound aspirations of man, his yearnings/longings for peace, for brotherhood, for love. Faith leads us to discover that the encounter with God enhances, perfects and elevates what is true, good and beautiful in man. It thus happens that, while God reveals Himself and lets Himself be known, man comes to learn who God is and, (in) knowing Him, discovers himself, his own origin, his own destiny, the greatness and dignity of human life.

Faith permits/allows an authentic knowledge about/of God which involves the whole human person: it is a "knowing", that is a knowledge that gives flavour to life, a new taste to existing/existence, a joyful way of being in the world. Faith is expressed in the gift of (one)self for others, in fraternity that renders us in solidarity/supportive, capable of loving, defeating the loneliness that renders/makes us sad. This knowledge of God through faith is thus not only intellectual, but vital. It is the knowledge of God-Love, thanks to his own love. The love of God then makes one see, opens one's eyes, permitting/allowing one to know the whole of reality, beyond the narrow perspectives of individualism and subjectivism which disorientate consciences. The knowledge of God is thus the experience of faith and implies, at the same time, an intellectual and moral pathway: touched in depth/profoundeur/deeply by the presence of Jesus's Spirit in us, we overcome the horizons of our egoisms/selfishness and open ourselves to the true values ​​of existence.

Today in this catechesis I would like to focus on the reasonableness of faith in God. Catholic tradition from the very beginning rejected so-called fideism, which is the will to believe against reason. Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd) is not a formula that interprets the Catholic faith. Indeed/in fact, God is not absurd, rather He is mystery. Mystery, in turn, is not irrational, but the superabundance of sense, of meaning, of truth. If, looking at the mystery, reason sees darkness, it is not because in the mystery there is no light, but rather because there is too much. Just as when a man's eyes are turned/aimed directly at the sun to look at it, they see only darkness; but who would say that the sun is not bright, on the contrary it is the source of light? Faith permits/allows us to look at the "sun", God, because it is the welcoming of his revelation in history and, so to speak, truly receives all the brightness of the mystery of God, recognizing the great miracle: God has come close to/approached man and (has) offered himself to man's knowledge, acceding to the creaturely limits of man's reason (cf Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 13). At the same time, God, with his grace, illuminates/enlightens reason, opens new, immeasurable and infinite hozions. For this (reason)/because of this, faith constitutes a stimulus always to seek, never to stop and never to subside/grow quiet in the inexhaustible discovery of truth and reality. The prejudice of certain modern thinkers is false, according to which human reason would be as if blocked by the dogmas of faith. Exactly the opposite is true, as the great masters of Catholic tradition have shown. St Augustine, before his conversion, with so much restlessness sought the truth, through all the available philosophies, finding them all unsatisfactory. His strenuous/laborious/tiring rational search was for him a significant pedagogy for the encounter with the Truth of Christ. When he says, "understand so as to believe and believe so as to understand" (Sermons, 43, 9: PL 38, 258), it is as if he were telling/recounting his own experience of life. The intellect and faith, in front of divine Revelation are not strangers or antagonists but are both conditions for understanding the meaning, to receive the authentic message, (when) approaching the threshold of the mystery. St Augustine, together with so many other Christian authors, is witness to a faith which is exercised with reason, which thinks and invites us to think. On this trail/track/Following in his wake, St Anselm says in his Proslogion that Catholic faith is fides quaerens intellectum, where the search of the intelligence is an interior act to believing. It will be above all St Thomas Aquinas - strong in this tradition - who will confront the reason of philosophers, showing how much new fruitful rational vitality comes to human thought from the grafting of the principles and truths of the Christian faith.

The Catholic faith is therefore reasonable and nourishes trust as well in human reason. The First Vatican Council, in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, affirmed that reason is able to know with certainty the existence of God through the way of creation, while only to faith belongs/there belongs to faith alone the possibility of knowing "easily, with absolute certainty and without error" (DS 3005) the truths concerning God, in the light of grace. Furthermore, the knowledge of faith is not against right reason. Blessed Pope John Paul II(, indeed,) in his encyclical Fides et ratio, summarized it thus: "Man's reason is neither annulled nor debased by assenting to the contents of faith; these are in any case reached with/by free and informed choice" (n 43). In the irresistible desire for truth, only a harmonious rapport/relationship between faith and reason is the right path that leads to God and to the full accomplishment/fulfillment of oneself.

This doctrine is easily recognisable in the whole of/throughout the New Testament. Saint Paul, writing to the Christians of Corinth, maintains/claims/argues, as we have heard: "While the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, we instead announce Christ crucified: a scandal for the Jews and folly/stupidity/foolishness to the Gentiles" (1 Cor 1, 22-23). God, (indeed/in fact), has saved the world not with an act of power, but through the humiliation of his only begotten Son: according to human parameters, the unusual mode/modality implemented/performed/carried out by God clashes with the demands of Greek wisdom. Nevertheless/And yet, the Cross of Christ has its own logic, which St Paul calls: ho logos tou staurou, "the word of the cross" (1 Cor 1, 18). Here, the term logos means both word and reason/reason as much as word and, if it alludes to the word, it is because it expresses verbally that which reason elaborates. Thus Paul sees in the Cross not an irrational event but a salvific fact that possesses its own reasonableness, recognizable in the light of faith. At the same time, he has so much/such confidence/trust in human reason, to the point of wondering at the fact that many, while seeing the works accomplished by God, insist/are bent/determined on not believing in Him. In his Letter to the Romans he says: "Indeed/In fact .. the invisible perfections [of God], namely his eternal strength/power and divinity, have been contemplated and understood in the creation of the world through the works accomplished by him" (1, 20). Thus/In this way, Saint Peter also exhorts the Christians of the Diaspora to adore "the Lord, Christ, in your hearts, always ready to respond to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3, 15). In a climate of persecution and of a strong demand/exigency/need to witness to the faith, believers are asked to justify with motives/motivations based on their adhesion to the word of the Gospel, to give the reason for our hope.

On these premises regarding/about the fruitful nexus between understanding and believing, is also founded the virtuous rapport between science and faith. Scientific research leads to the knowledge of truths about man and the cosmos that are always new, we see this. The true good of humanity, accessible in faith, opens the horizon in which its pathway of discovery must move. Therefore, for example, research placed at the service of life and aiming at eradicating diseases should be encouraged. Also important are the investigations to discover the secrets of our planet and of the universe, in the knowledge that man is at the summit of creation not so as to exploit it senselessly, but to guard/custodirla it and render/make it habitable. So faith, truly lived, is not in conflict with science; rather, it cooperates with it, offering basic criteria that promote the good of all, asking science to give up only those attempts which - in opposition to God's original plan - can produce effects that turn against man himself. For this reason, too, it is reasonable to believe: if science is a valuable ally of the faith for understanding God's plan in the universe, faith permits scientific progress to occur always for the good and the truth of man, while staying true to this same plan.

That is why it is crucial for people to open themselves to faith and to know God and his plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, a new humanism is inaugurated, an authentic "grammar" of man and of all reality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms: "God's truth is his wisdom, which commands the whole created order and governs the world. God, who alone "made heaven and earth" (Ps 115:15), can alone impart true knowledge of every created thing in a relation to himself"(no. 216).

We are confident then that our commitment to the evangelization will help give new centrality to the Gospel in the lives of many men and women of our time. Let us pray that all find in Christ the meaning of life and the foundation of true freedom: without God, in fact, man loses himself. The testimonies of those who have gone before us and have dedicated their lives to the Gospel confirm it forever. It is reasonable to believe, our existence is at stake. It is worth spending oneself for Christ, He alone satisfies the desires of truth and of goodness rooted in the soul of every man: now, in the time that passes, and in the endless day of blessed Eternity. Thank you."

BXVI - General Audience, Wednesday, 21 Nov 2012, Paul VI Hall